Set into the Usk valley of southern Wales, with Bristol to the east and newport and Cardiff to the west, Celtic Manor sprawls over 1,400 acres of classic Welsh “How Green Was My valley” Gwent countryside. It’s easily accessible by car, two hours or less from london, the final few minutes over the spectacular Severn Bridge that practically floats over the Usk river. Celtic Manor is the vision of telecommuni- cations billionaire Sir Terrence Matthews, who earned his fortune in Canada, but who was born in a maternity ward right on the property, in a structure he later converted into the charming 70-room Manor House. Its connected com- panion, the 330-room, 32-suite resort hotel, is complete with spa, convention space, airy lobby and superb restaurants, giving Celtic Manor a
venerable and contemporary one-two punch
that’s second to none in the region. Indulge me
with any of The Crown’s innovative entrees,
followed by a pint in the atmospheric Cellar Bar
at the Manor House and I’ll fall asleep with a
smile, I promise.
also without peer—at least in terms of volume—are Celtic Manor’s golf offerings. first on
the scene in 1995 was the roman road course, a
6,515-yard, par-70 robert Trent Jones Sr. design
that plunges into and out of a wooded river valley on the front nine and eases past lakes and
streams on the back. It’s not as typically brutish
as most Trent Jones Sr. creations, but the 428-
yard par-four 10th hole is a classic card-wrecker,
thanks to a ravine that separates the fairway from
an elevated, three-tiered green.
Celtic Manor’s second course, The Montgom-
erie, is named for its designer, current
ryder Cup captain Colin Montgomerie. Don’t be
fooled by its petite-sounding 6,371 yards from the
tips; par is only 69 and its numerous deep pot bun-
kers, firm, fast-running conditions and confound-
ingly contoured greens make low scores elusive.
pained him to lose in the first round to Charlie
fox, a Yorkshire paint salesman who puffed on
a pipe throughout the round, just like Hope’s pal
(and rival), Bing Crosby.
royal Porthcawl starts off smoking, with three
par-fours along the beach, where the atlantic
ocean meets the Bristol Channel. Hook any shot
and you’ll need a seagull to retrieve it. Cross
bunkers, crosswinds and putting across vexing
undulations add further spice. from there, the
course turns inland, traversing higher ground, yet
it is unique among links courses in that the sea is
in view for the entirety.
The tiny 122-yard, par-three 7th is memorable
for its miniscule target and surrounding sand
pits, while the 504-yard, par-five 17th is memo-
rable if for nothing else than for the manner in
which Tiger Woods conquered it during a 1995
Walker Cup practice round with a 350-yard
drive, followed by a 150-yard pitching wedge
into the cup for a 2. In Britain that’s known as an
albatross. Back home, we call it a double eagle.
either way, it’s a rare bird.
In a Royal Class by Itself
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Without question, the finest course in Wales is royal Porthcawl Golf Club, a seaside
spread of the highest order 40 minutes from
Celtic Manor that dates to 1891. Wales’ sole
entry in the World Top 100 is primarily the work
of H.S. Colt, who substantially revised the course
in 1913. However, it was Bob Hope who first put
Porthcawl on the map for americans when he
competed in the 1951 British amateur there. It
Aerial view of Royal Porthcawl, a coastal course that dates back
to 1891 and is widely regarded as the best in Wales